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Household to herbal: Best home remedies

A woman smiles as she gardens

There’s a resurgence in the popularity of herbal remedies

A woman smiles as she gardens

Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food. - Hippocrates

Using herbal products as a cure to health conditions is no longer limited to the Kombie-driving, hemp linen-wearing organic gardener, with many Aussies choosing to take a more natural approach to their health.

Herbalism (or using herbs as a form of medicine) has been the main source of medicine for thousands of years and was only overtaken by the dawn of modern medicine in the 19th century when we began to use science and evidence-based pharmaceuticals to help manage our health.

Over the last decade or so, there’s been a resurgence in the popularity of herbal remedies – and it’s not all hocus pocus. In fact, 80% of the world’s population still relies on herbal medicine to some extent.

So, we’ve taken some of the most common household herbal remedies and used some science to put them to the test to see whether they can actually make a difference. Does your favourite make the cut?

Apple cider vinegar benefits

This celebrity go-to (Miranda Kerr, Scarlett Johansson and Katy Perry rave about it) has become a pantry staple for its versatility. Apple cider vinegar can be used as a salad dressing, in baking (it can make your cake batter fluffier) or diluted in water. But how does it fare when we look at the science?

It seems apple cider vinegar (or ACV as enthusiasts like to refer to it as) is more than just a passing fad. A 2016 study by Michael Mosley and Aston University showed that ACV can help bring blood sugar levels down, another 12-week study suggested that ACV could help lower cholesterol and triglycerides and a number of studies have shown that it could be an effective antifungal treatment. We spoke to nutritionist Jessica Sepel who explains that ACV also plays a role in improving gut health.

If you’re looking to incorporate apple cider vinegar into your diet, it’s important to use it only in small amounts because of its high acidity. A good way to start is to mix one teaspoon with 250ml of water and sip slowly.

A young boy helps his mother do some gardening

Olive leaf extract benefits

We’ve all heard about the benefits of a Mediterranean diet (and if you haven’t check out this article) and the olive tree plays a huge part in it. Olive leaf is rich in antioxidants (great for your immune system), hydroxytyrosol (promotes a healthy heart) and phenolics (helps with detoxification, metabolism and vascular health). A good way to take olive leaf extract is as a supplement with food and water.

Turmeric benefits

Used for thousands of years as both a spice and medicinal herb, turmeric is the ingredient that gives curries that vibrant yellow colour. Known for its anti-inflammatory effects, turmeric is also a strong antioxidant. There have also been studies that have found turmeric can lower your risk of brain diseases (like Alzheimer’s and depression) and improve your memory.

To get the most out of this small but mighty spice, it’s best to consume it with black pepper, as the pepper allows it to be absorbed into the bloodstream. You can buy turmeric supplements (in tablet form), or simply add it into rice, eggs, vegetables or soups. Ever tried a turmeric (or golden) latte? Combine a ¼ tsp turmeric, ¼ tsp cinnamon, ¼ tsp ginger with 350ml of warm milk (any milk of your choice), a dash of honey and a sprinkle of black pepper.

Tea tree oil benefits

This oil is made from the leaves of the tea tree and can be used to treat infections (everything from acne and scabies to athlete’s foot and ringworm), as a local antiseptic and as a decongestant (when used in an oil diffuser to clear a runny nose).

Tea tree oil has also been used as a natural alternative to treating acne (dilute it with some witch hazel and apply as a toner) and to help clear up dandruff.
The best way to use the oil is to dilute it with a ‘carrier’ oil like olive, coconut or almond oil (for one drop of tea tree, mix with 12 drops of carrier oil) and be careful when applying around sensitive areas (like your eyes).

Garlic benefits

The humble garlic is a plant that’s part of the onion (allium) family and each garlic bulb is made up of 10-20 garlic cloves. One of the most popular cooking ingredients across the world, garlic is used in everything including stews, curries, roasts, soups and most deliciously bread (can I have a ‘heck, yes’ to garlic bread?).

Not only is garlic versatile, but it’s also the original superfood with studies showing it can boost your immune system, reduce blood pressure, improve cholesterol levels and may even prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s. If that wasn’t enough, garlic was also used as a performance enhancer back in ancient Greece when it was given to Olympic athletes.

Garlic is easily incorporated into most savoury dishes. Chop finely and add to, well, everything! Try adding a teaspoon of garlic to this delicious one-pan satay chicken recipe for an extra boost of flavour.

Once you’ve stocked up on these household herbal remedies, it’s time to start making them a staple part of your diet. If you’re planning on cooking with them, it’s important to consider the type of oil you’re using (did you know some oils can become carcinogenic when used at high temperatures?) For more, check out our article Coconut, olive and vegetable oils – which is best?

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